A former pro football player has been lecturing at the Kittanning Church of Christ this week. However, his motivational presentation is more than a discussion on how to throw a pass.
Willie Franklin finished high school in 1968 and knew many of the great athletes of that era.
“It was the same school that Marcus Allen (former football running back and football analyst for CBS) and Tyrell Davis (former football running back who played for the NFL Denver Broncos) graduated from – Abraham Lincoln High School,” Franklin said.
“I played one year of high school football. Then I went to junior college in Mesa Community College in Arizona. I made All American there in football, track, as well as runner up in State in wrestling. I received a scholarship to USC and Oklahoma. So I flew three times to each and decided I would go to Oklahoma because I was a country boy. While there, I walked on with the Baltimore Colts after my senior year where Nebraska beat us in the game of the century – 35-31 on Thanksgiving Day 1971. I ended up making the team with the Baltimore Colts.”
Although Franklin was living the dream, there were many questions about the meaning of life that went unanswered.
“When I came back to Oklahoma University to finish my degree, I met one of the coaches and he started teaching me scriptures about Jesus.”
Franklin said that once he became a Christian, it ended his football career.
“I had found what I had been searching for. I found substance, the purpose of life, and what will happen to me when i leave this life. Those were questions I had been asking myself for years.”
Franklin has since traveled the world, preaching in churches, giving motivational talks in schools, and challenging students in universities.
“When you are in a sport, you become identified with that sport. I wanted a separate identity from football. There were other aspects of my character that I wanted people to see other than hitting people in the mouth and run up and down a football field.”
His travels have taken him to New Guinea, where he stayed for seven years in poverty with the “bush” people.
“It really opened my eyes. It wasn’t American culture. It wasn’t plush. It was a jungle where 80% of the people lived.”
After returning to the U.S. in 1991 with his wife and three daughters, Franklin had one more child – a son. The children took on the traits of their father.
“Eventually my girls played basketball, and my son played football at Lake Dallas High School. My girls were All State basketball players. My son was All State quarterback and went to the University of Missouri, and is now playing up in Canada.”
Franklin will conclude his local engagement tonight at the 7PM service. The public is invited to attend. The church is located directly behind the Kittanning Dairy Queen.